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What Do Termites Eat?

Termi home & commercial March 7, 2024 · 10 min read
Blog What do termites eat

Termites are considered to be one the most destructive pests in the world when they invade our homes, but they play a crucial role within the Australian ecosystem. Understanding what termites eat is an important step towards effective termite management for your property.

Termites are found throughout most of mainland Australia at moderate to very high levels, with the northern regions of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland being particularly popular for termites, whilst cooler climates, such as Tasmania and the southern part of Victoria, experience negligible levels of termite activity.

Think you might have termites or discovered termites on your property? Contact your local service centre to organise a termite inspection or termite treatment today.

What is in a Termite’s Diet?

Termites are notorious for their insatiable appetite for cellulose, a complex carbohydrate found in plant materials. However, their diet extends beyond just wood. Termites are known to consume various cellulose-containing materials, including:

Wood

Wood is the primary food source for termites and they can feed on both hardwoods and softwoods, making virtually any wooden structure vulnerable to infestation. From structural timbers to furniture, no wooden item is immune to the threat of termite damage.

Plant Matter

Termites feed on a wide range of plant matter. This includes leaves, grass, roots and even paper products made from plant fibres.

Other Cellulose Materials

Beyond natural sources, termites are notorious for targeting cellulose-rich materials commonly found in human habitats. These may include cardboard, insulation and even certain types of fabric. Termites are opportunistic feeders capable of exploiting any material containing cellulose for nourishment.

What Influences Termite Feeding Behavior?

Several factors influence the feeding behaviour of termites, dictating their dietary preferences and foraging patterns. These factors include:

Moisture Levels

Termites are highly sensitive to moisture and require humid environments to thrive and survive. So naturally, they tend to gravitate towards areas with high moisture content, such as damp wood or soil. In addition to aiding termite survival, moisture accelerates the decay of cellulose-based materials, making them more palatable to termites.

Temperature

Temperature plays a crucial role in termite activity and influences their feeding habits and reproductive cycles. Termites thrive in warm, subtropical climates, where temperatures range between 24°C to 35°C. In colder regions, termites may seek refuge indoors, where controlled environments provide optimal conditions for feeding and reproduction.

Termite Colony Needs

The nutritional requirements of a termite colony also influence feeding behaviour. Worker termites, responsible for foraging and feeding the colony, prioritise gathering resources that sustain their nestmates and support colony growth. As such, their feeding choices are guided by the colony’s collective needs, driving them to seek out specific food sources.

How Do Termites Digest Wood?

Termites are able to survive off cellulose thanks to their symbiotic relationship with microorganisms called protozoa, which are found within a termite’s digestive system. Protozoa are actually responsible for breaking down the wood inside a termite and use a special enzyme to naturally break down cellulose into sugars and other compounds that termites can use as nutrients.

Termites yet to reach maturity don’t have protozoa in their digestive systems and require termite workers to feed them. They use a mouth-to-mouth feeding process keep these termites fed.

How Do Termites Find Food?

Subterranean termites can’t see where wood is located. In most species of termites, workers don’t have eyes, making it impossible for them to see the actual location of wood. Instead, they use their senses to navigate to where they think wood should be.

Cellulose is an extremely abundant natural resource that after some trial and error, termites can find during their tunneling near objects that are likely to be located near cellulose.

When a source of cellulose is discovered, the termites that discovered it will return to the colony to recruit more termites to take advantage of the new food source.

Diet of Drywood Termites

If you didn’t guess, drywood termites love wood that remains nice and dry. They tend to nest aboveground and don’t usually come in contact with soil. Drywood termites typically infest structural wooden members of homes, outdoor decking, boundary fences, furniture inside homes and even wood power poles.

Diets of Dampwood & Subterranean Termites

Dampwood and subterranean termites love wood that is in contact with a moisture source or that is already decaying. This makes your home a big target for these types of termites and discovering them within your home probably means that you have a leak somewhere.

Conclusion

Termites are a formidable pest that will eat anything that contains cellulose, including your home. Understanding their diet will allow you to take measures to manage termite infestations on your property effectively.

If you suspect you have termites or discovered termites within your home, it is highly recommended that you contact a licensed pest controller to conduct a thorough termite inspection.

At Termitrust, we know termites so you don’t have to… Click here to schedule a termite inspection or termite treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are some signs of a termite infestation?

A. Some signs of a termite infestation may include mud tubes, hollow-sounding wood, discarded termite wings, piles of termite droppings and tight-fitting doors and windows.

Q. How can I prevent termite damage to my home?

A. To prevent termite damage, keep piles of wood away from your home, fix any leaky taps and pipes, seal cracks and openings in your concrete slab and schedule regular termite inspections.

Q. What should I do if I suspect termite activity in my home?

A. If you suspect termite activity, it’s essential to contact a licensed pest control professional for a thorough inspection and appropriate treatment recommendations.